Staying in Teesdale, Gary Richardson was familiar with his surroundings, but not his rather stylish accommodation
Gary Richardson enjoys a short break in a T@B and discovers the beauty of Co Durham’s countryside
I HAVE A bit of a confession to make – I’ve just spent a fantastic weekend away with a younger model. ‘Musky’, our Sprite Musketeer, turned 30 this year, so I’ve treated our faithful friend to a full service and reseal. Being without a tourer for a couple of weeks, I took the opportunity of enjoying a few days away in a T@B caravan. Doe Park in County Durham offers this model for hire, complete with all you need for a stay on the site. With a new Mini Cooper at my disposal, this really was an irresistible opportunity to go glamping in such a stylish, retro unit. Doe Park is a family-run touring caravan site on a working farm near the village of Cotherstone in Teesdale. Established for many years by the Lamb family, the meadows have spacious pitches for caravans. Here you’ll also find the T@B pitched and set up with an awning, ideal for couples and families to hire if they haven’t got a tourer of their own. It certainly makes for an easy stay, with the T@B already connected to hook-up, water and gas supply. You’ll also find all of the essential camping equipment – bedding, cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery, and a welcome pack of tea, coffee, milk, juice and fresh bread – ready on your arrival. The only additional items you need to bring, apart from your weekend bag, are towels. Caravanning made easy!
On arrival at Doe Park, I was shown to the caravan and given a guided tour of the facilities, most of which any caravanner will be familiar with. After unpacking, I quickly settled in. The accommodation was only part of the reason for this particular weekend trip, because County Durham has much to offer the traveller and there is lots to see and do in beautiful Teesdale. Cotherstone itself is a gorgeous village and exploring it on foot is easy from Doe Park. Crossing the stone bridge leads to the charming West Green, overlooked by a most welcoming pub, The Fox & Hounds. The food here makes it well worth a visit and a meal and drinks provide a pleasant evening in the bar or restaurant. Further
along is the village shop and the post office, which the site owners recommend for visitors seeking provisions. It is always good to see caravan sites in rural areas helping to promote and support local independent businesses. Meanwhile, back at the farm our T@B awaited and an early night was on the cards, before beginning a full agenda of country living the following morning. Breakfast time and our fresh farm produce came into its own for a hearty start to the day. Everything was provided and a handy pop-up toaster in place of the traditional grill meant the home-baked bread made delicious toast. Pay a little extra and you can order additional items on arrival, such as a Continental breakfast (£10), local food hamper (£20), or a celebration hamper of luxury chocolates and a bottle of Prosecco (£20). The front window of the T@B looks out over sheep and lambs grazing in the adjacent meadow and the comfortable reclining deck-chairs in the awning offered additional lounging. Many visitors come regularly to Doe Park and there are also seasonal pitches here, for those who prefer not to tow too often. At reception, there is lots of useful tourist information about the many local attractions and after lunch, Barnard Castle was on the afternoon agenda.
Castles and treasures
This historic market town is only a 15-minute drive from Cotherstone and makes a great starting point for visitors wanting to explore Teesdale. The castle ruins greet travellers by road and climbing the steep bank past the old market cross, you’ll find shops, pubs and eateries to suit all tastes. The public library and post office at the top by the church are also good sources of local information and parking isn’t too difficult, even on busy days. Taking a stroll along the main thoroughfare is an ideal opportunity to get your bearings and enjoy some of the local attractions. The biggest, most impressive attraction in Barnard Castle is one that takes many visitors by surprise, though. The magnificent Bowes Museum on the edge of the town is a sight to behold, a purpose-built treasure house that can easily rival any in London or beyond. Founded by John and Josephine Bowes in the 19th century, this breath-taking building, in the style of a grand French château, is open to the public all year round and houses important European fine and decorative art, including works by El Greco, Francisco Goya and Canaletto, as well as a huge collection of ceramics, textiles, tapestries and furniture. The museum is situated in magnificent grounds, with formal pleasure gardens and impressive mature trees complementing this jewel of an attraction.
‘It is always good to see caravan sites in rural areas helping to promote and support local businesses’
There is no shortage of historic castles in the north of England and a brief drive led us to Raby Castle near Staindrop. Set in 200 acres of deer park, this magnificent example was founded by one John Neville, third Baron Neville de Raby, some time between 1367 and 1390. The castle is still a private home, but is open to the public, with a large car park, reception area, café, shop and formal gardens all ready to explore. Inside Raby Castle itself are extensive works of art, including Old Masters, and this fine collection includes work by Luca Giordano, Anthony van Dyck and Sir Joshua Reynolds. The building has no fewer than nine towers along the perimeter and the main castle surrounds a central courtyard. The great hall, known as the Baron’s Hall, and the medieval kitchens have been well preserved. Look out for deer grazing in the park, which adds to the atmosphere. Returning to camp, the nearby village of Romaldkirk is a haven from a busy world and The Rose & Crown pub provides a welcome place to relax and unwind after a long day of exploring. Local ales are on tap here and the prosperous houses by the green take you back to a bygone era of unhurried life. If you plan to dine at this establishment, it’s advisable to book a table, because the reputation of the food and drink here has spread far and wide, so it can be busy.
Slow down and relax
Teesdale is a place of history, from castles and museums, to charming country pubs and working farms which are the life-blood of the community. After a day or two, the hustle and bustle of daily life seems to slow down a notch, without you even noticing it. The gentler pace is good for the soul, but don’t ever think you’ll be bored here, with so many hidden treasures to discover. Add in a warm welcome from the locals and a trendy T@B to stay in, and this visit will be one to remember.
Teesdale is a beautiful area to explore, and Gary enjoyed staying in a hired T@B caravan with all mod cons provided
GARY RICHARDSON drove his 2018 MiniCooper to take a short break in a 2017 T@B
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP Hearty breakfast to start the day. The T@B is compact but comfortable. Don’t miss the magnificent Bowes Museum. Barnard Castle is a pleasant market town with lots of shops and pubs
LEFT-RIGHT The gardens at Raby Castle include this very imposing conservatory. The castle has nine fine towers around its perimeter